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Ken Burns

Defying the Nazis - a film about Unitarian Universalist rescuers

I read about an interesting film, "Defying the Nazis," by filmmakers Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, in the Jewish Week:

Joukowsky raised money from family and friends for the documentary, and wrote a book about their exploits; he also established a foundation that awards grants and gives the Sharp Rescuer Prize, which promotes “humanitarian work “ following his grandparents' example.

He has framed the couples story in both amacro context (World War ll and the Holocaust) and in a micro one (the effect of the Sharps' decisions had on their children and on their marriage). His goal was to personalize the Shoah. Ken Burns is quoted in the article: “It's very difficult to say the words ‘six million’ and have them have any meaning.”

The documentary includes interviews with people rescued by the Sharps, authors, historians and Holocaust scholars. Burns worked on the project frame-by-frame. “He's meticulous….a perfectionist."  Burns recruited Tom Hanks to serve as Waitstills voice; in vintage Burnsian fashion, Hanks reads from letters and journals. There is also a haunting musical score, and dramatic re-enactments. 

Implied in “Defying the Nazis” are several questions: What is the cost of personal sacrifice? What are the limits of commitment to an ideal? What would you do in the Sharps' shoes?


If this sounds interesting to you, watch it! “Defying the Nazis” will be broadcast on PBS on Sept. 20, 9 p.m., and will be screened at Village Cinema, 22 E. 12th St. in Manhattan Sept. 9-15.